No absolute power, says Abrahams

Opposition Senator Wilfred Abrahams gave general support to amendments to the 1962 Customs Act when the matter came before the Upper House for consideration yesterday, but at the same time expressed strong objection to ‘absolute power’ being granted to the Comptroller of Customs.

Speaking on the Bill to amend the Customs Act to authorize the Comptroller to undertake post-clearance audits, Abrahams singled Section 180 f of the amendments that gives the Comptroller the power to authorize an officer to enter and search a private premises and documents based on ‘reasonable grounds’ of suspicions of an illegal import-related activity.

Senator Wilfred Abrahams
Opposition Senator Wilfred Abrahams

On this provision, he said: “I entirely agree that it is necessary to allow the Comptroller of Customs to be (able) to trace goods”. He further said that if there were reports or suspicion of under-reporting or false-invoicing by an importer, “then I do believe that the Comptroller of Customs should have the authority to go and check further. It is a necessary authority”.

He said the term ‘reasonable grounds’ for search and seizure, “carries its weight in gold”.

The attorney added: “However, I do not believe in the absolute authority of anybody or anything”. He pointed to the specific section of the legislation, which states, “An officer authorised by the Comptroller by day or by night may enter into and search any house, shop, cellar, warehouse, room, or other place, and inspect and search the premises as well as any goods, books and documents found therein, whether the books are in manual or electronic format”.

Abrahams argued: “That gives the Comptroller or his agents the authority to search anywhere for anything without having the requirement of reasonable grounds. Our whole system of law is predicated on reasonable grounds.”

It is unfathomable to me and unacceptable in the extreme that any governmental authority can come and search my premises, or somebody else’s premises without having to pass the minimal standard of reasonable grounds.”

He noted that in criminal matters there was protection of citizens because the police need a warrant, signed by a magistrate, before searching private property, unless they witness a crime being committed.

“I do not believe that the Comptroller of Customs should have any more authority than the Commissioner of Police.”

Regarding such proposed powers of the Comptroller, he said, “I do believe a fetter should be on that. It should not be an absolute discretion . . . the Comptroller of Customs should have to satisfy some other person, or obtain a warrant”.

3 Responses to No absolute power, says Abrahams

  1. dave May 21, 2015 at 9:23 am

    When you hear …… braying , sometimes you should ignore; sometimes you should silenced them. Abrahams knows a little bit about Customs but he has to walk the walk to really understand. There has been the perception that Customs has too much power and that Officers work for too much money in Overtime and the thrust is to reduce the power of Customs and reduce the amount of money worked for in Overtime. It is a big mistake and they will find out that only after the damage has The money thing is a myth because Customs Officers ARE GROSSLY underpaid and the Overtime rates is minor compared to other countries within Caricom. These Officers have been unfaired –working long hours in substandard conditions , an inhumane Shift System , no regrading and no appointments , no raise of pay –no nothing. Sad the way we are treating people the Customs Officers do, they are grossly underpaid

    Reply
    • DH May 21, 2015 at 3:34 pm

      The article is not about pay. The article is about the amount of authority that Customs has

      “An officer authorised by the Comptroller by day or by night may enter into and search any house, shop, cellar, warehouse, room, or other place, and inspect and search the premises as well as any goods, books and documents found therein, whether the books are in manual or electronic format”.

      The question is if we feel comfortable knowing that at any point in time a customs agent can come to your house and search your premises with little or no justification.

      Reply
  2. dave May 21, 2015 at 3:24 pm

    I am not posting here again . do not like what you did with my second corrected post. Well I will give you a chance now !!!

    Reply

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